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All Things Citable

Zotero Set Up

Zotero (pronounced “zoh-TAIR-oh”) is free application that collects, manages, and cites research sources. Zotero allows you to attach PDFs, notes and images to your citations, organize them into collections for different projects, insert citations into Word documents, and create bibliographies.


To use Zotero, you will need to install two things:
  1. The Zotero application.
  2. A connector to allow your browser to save citations to Zotero.
Both of these are available from the Zotero download page.

Save Citations 

Zotero saves references from most library catalogs and databases, and even many regular web pages, with one click.

When Zotero detects that you’re looking at a book or article on a catalog, database, or a site like, you’ll see a book or page icon appear in or near the address bar of your browser. Just click the icon and Zotero will automatically save the citation. Zotero will import your citation into the last folder you had open.

Make sure Zotero is open before you begin to save citations; otherwise you will get an error message and the option to save it to your online account.

Tips for organizing your citations:
  • You can create folders to organize your citations. Citations can be present in more than one folder at a time.
  • You can also organize your citations using tags, notes, or the related function.
  • It’s easy to attach files (like PDFs) to items in your Zotero library. Just drag the file into your Zotero pane. Dropping a file onto a collection, or in between library items, will copy it into your library as a standalone item.
  • Dropping it onto an existing item will attach it to that item. This is the easiest way to attach a copy of an article to its entry in your library.

Create Bibliographies 

It’s easy to create a bibliography from your Zotero library.
  1. Select the references or collections you want to include.
  2. Hold the control key and click to select multiple items. Right-click one of the selected items and choose Create Bibliography.
  3. Choose the bibliographic style you want, and select the output format: Save as RTF or HTML, copy to clipboard or print. (The RTF file format is compatible with all word processors.)
Or you can drag and drop references from Zotero into your document and they will turn into fully formatted citations. This works with any word processor including Google Docs. Change the default style under Preferences on the “gear” menu.

Using Word Processor Plugins 

The word processing plugin adds a Zotero toolbar to either Microsoft Word or Google Docs that allows you to add formatted citations to your document while you write.

To add a citation, click the first button (“Insert Citation”) on the toolbar. Select the reference you want to cite and click OK. Zotero will add the citation at your cursor.

At the end of your paper, click the third button (“Insert Bibliography”). Your bibliography will appear, and new citations will be added automatically. Change bibliographic styles with the last button on the toolbar (“Set Doc Prefs”).

If you use Word for Mac, the Zotero Toolbar is located in different places depending on your operating system:

  • If you’re using MS Word 2016 for Mac, the Zotero Toolbar is found in the Add Ons tab.
  • If you’re using MS Word 2011 for Mac, you’ll need to make your Zotero toolbar visible by enabling it through the “View” menu.
  • If you are using MS Word 2008 for Mac, then Zotero is installed in the script menu (to the right of the Help menu at the top of the screen).

The Zotero Toolbar is located at the end of the regular toolbar in Google Docs.

Sync and Export 

Syncing your library backs up your library on the Zotero server, and enables you to use Zotero on more than one computer.

After you set up up a free user account, open the Zotero Preferences window and navigate to the Sync tab. Enter your username and password.

Check the “sync automatically” box, and check both boxes under File Syncing and choose Zotero storage for My Library. This will sync your PDF attachments as well as citations.

Zotero will upload your library to their server.

In addition to automatic syncing, you can sync manually at any time by clicking the “Sync with Zotero Server” button on the right-hand side of the Zotero toolbar.

If you own more than one computer, repeat this configuration on each of your computers. Any updates you make on one of your computers will be reflected on the others.

For more details and help troubleshooting sync problems, check the Zotero site.


Zotero allows you to export the data out of your library. You may want to do this for a number of reasons. If you’re working on a different computer than you normally use, you can export your library and take it with you to another machine. Or you can export your library and import your citation data into another citation manager.

Within the citation library, select the item(s) you wish to export, then right-click to open the sub-menu. From here, select “Export Items”.

In the pop-up window, click the Format box to select your export file type. This file is what will be imported into another citation manager or computer with Zotero.

  • RIS (Research Information Systems) format can be imported into numerous citation managers, including EndNote, Mendeley, and RefWorks.
  • RefWorks Tagged can also be imported to Refworks, and will include your relevant tagging information.
A window will appear asking you where you would like to save the export file. Once selected, click Save File.

To import the exported Zotero file, please follow the steps listed in your new citation manager’s guide.

You can also export your entire library by selecting the Zotero gear menu, choosing Export Library, and saving the file to a USB drive or importing it into another citation manager.


Zotero’s Groups feature allows you to share references with other Zotero users online. It’s a great way to work on collaborative research projects. First, set up Zotero sync and synchronize your library.

  • To create a shared library, click the Create Groups button near the top left of your Zotero window (small blue/green button with two “people” icons, second from the left). This will take you to the Groups page on
  • To join an existing Zotero library, search for it at or be invited by the group’s owner.
  • You must log in to the website to create or join a group.

You now have two sections in your Zotero collections pane: My Library and Group Libraries.

Personal and group libraries are entirely separate, and changes made to items in one library do not affect the other. You can drag items back and forth libraries to copy items.

Search for existing public groups or create a new group. Groups may be public (searchable, and anyone can join) or private (users can only join if invited).

Tips and Tricks 

Get This Item

You’ve probably seen the Get This Item button in some article databases that allows you to locate the full text of an article online. Zotero allows you to use the same feature with the Locate button enables you to locate the online full text of an item in your Zotero library.

To set up Zotero to access the Get This Item server, click the Gear button on the Zotero toolbar and choose Preferences. At the bottom of the Advanced preferences window, paste this url into the “Resolver” box:

Then click OK. Once you’ve set this up, you can click the Locate button on any citation you’re viewing to search for the item online.

Adding items by ISBN

Have the book in front of you and want to add it to your Zotero library without having to search for a citation?

If you have a book’s ISBN, or an online article’s DOI or PMID number, just click the magic wand button: “Add item by identifier.” Type in the book or article’s number, and Zotero will automatically download its information and save it to your library.

Indexing PDFs

It’s easy to add PDFs to your Zotero library and automatically import their citation info.

First, enable PDF indexing on the Search tab of Zotero’s preferences. Zotero will download and install a small plugin.

Next, just drag your PDF files into the Zotero pane.

Right-click the PDFs and choose “Retrieve Metadata for PDFs.” Zotero will retrieve their citation data from Google Scholar and turn them into cite-able items with PDF attachments.

If Zotero can’t find a match on Google Scholar, don’t worry — you can still save the citation from another catalog or article database, then drag the PDF onto the citation to make it an attachment.